Reading: 2 Timothy 1:1-10
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
What is the impact of a word of encouragement? The Apostle Paul knew the importance of encouragement and showed that in his mentoring of new church leader Timothy. We will not only explore how we can transform lives and our community through words of encouragement but we will also live this out as we encourage young Zoe in her baptism!
What a joy it has been this morning, and in response to Zoe’s baptism I wanted to share for just a few minutes about Encouragement. We all know the importance of encouragement in our lives and part of the promises that Ben and Yola and the Godparents made today was that they would encourage little Zoe in her life and faith journey.
Our reading today is a sippet from the correspondence between the apostle Paul wrote to a younger church leader called Timothy … and these letters from Paul to Timothy are well known for their encouragement.
So to give some context, the apostle Paul was a super hero of the Bible. In the period after Jesus, he was the main person who went around telling people about Jesus. He established dozens of churches and was well known and well loved. Paul was loud and full of life and a booming presence wherever he went. And Paul wrote lots of letters to different churches and people. Timothy on the other hand was a younger person known for his timidness. We first meet Timothy as a helper on Paul and Silas second missionary journey and he was a travelling companion of Paul for many years. Timothy became the leader of the church in Ephesus but struggled in leadership for two reasons:
1) He was self-conscious about his age and allowed others to look down on him.
2) He didn’t like conflict and would sometimes shy away from correcting the church on issues.
Even with his struggles, Timothy remained in ministry at Ephesus which was a big and active church.
The other important context was that at the time of writing this second letter, Paul had been arrested and was sitting in prison awaiting whatever was next. There was a general assumption that Paul’s life may be nearing an end.
And yet it was in this context that Paul was writing a letter of encouragement to Timothy – as a friend and mentor. Two weeks ago, I mentioned that is hard to keep on giving if your inner well is running on empty and for Paul, it was important to give of himself to encourage Timothy – to write this letter to someone that he cared about and was deeply interested in.
After the usual Paul greeting … Paul jumps straight in with the encouragement…
Now I am going to highlight the things that Paul encourages Timothy about, but here is what I would like you to do to make this sermon personal to you. I would like you to think about who are (or have been) the Paul’s in your life who have encouraged or mentored you … and who are the Timothy’s in your life, the people that you have a heart for and for whom you try and encourage and mentor.
I am sure that we would all have those sorts of people in our lives. Have you got a couple of people in mind?
Paul gives a hint in verse 5 of our reading of who some of these people might be when he acknowledges the critical role that family has in encouragement by mentioning Timothy’s mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. It’s true isn’t it – our mothers, grandmothers, fathers, grandfathers, aunties, uncles, extended family … their encouragement comes with a built-in bonus because they are family.
I know for me growing up, there was something special about your parents’ encouragement … and I can see the joy in my own kids when I encourage them. And this is particularly relevant today after Zoe’s baptism because this is a sense of what you – Ben and Yola – and the godparents – did today for little Zoe. She may not understand but I am sure that she felt the love and encouragement as you made promises on her behalf.
So the people who encourage us or mentor us might be family, but I also know that I have had the joy of other people who for a season jumped in to be a mentor or an encourager for me.
So have you brought to mind some of your mentors or encouragers in your life? And what about the people who have a heart to encourage. Last week at the mission fair we had 17 people sign up to be intergenerational mentors in the church, 17 people who were saying that they are keen to draw alongside a younger person to encourage, support, pray for and mentor. That’s huge. But it doesn’t have to be a younger person. You can be an encourager to a peer, or an older person too.
So … have we got a few people in mind now? At least one person who has encouraged or mentored you and one person who you have a heart to encourage? Hold them there while we look at how Paul encourages Timothy and 3 challenges that come from that.
Challenge #1 – Give thanks and pray for them
Firstly, in verse 3 – Paul starts by saying to Timothy “I thank God for you, as I remember you in my prayers”. For Paul, this role of encourager was not just a job he had to do, Timothy was a friend, this was a special relationship that he gave thanks to God for and regularly prayed for them.
I guess that is first challenge for us. For those people in your mind – those who have encouraged you or whom you have a heart to encourage … lets acknowledge today that it is indeed a blessing to have them in your life. Let’s give thanks to God for them. And lets commit to regularly pray for them, like Paul did. Asking God to bless them, to guide them, to help them. And be encouraged that they are probably praying for you too!
Challenge #2 – Find some time to connect with this … soon
Paul goes on in verse 4 to remind us that it is more than just remembering them or praying for them – there is great encouragement in carving out some time to connect with them, to be with them. If you have a heart to encourage someone, why not send them a message asking whether you can catch up this week – in person, on the phone. Feel free to send that right now. If you are being mentored by someone, thank them this week by offering to buy them a meal.
Paul says he longs to be with Timothy because it will fill him with joy. There is something beautiful about creating time and space to be with encouraging people. That is my challenge to you … don’t just long to connect … make it happen.
Challenge #3 – Don’t give up.
And then in the second half of our reading, Paul shifts his encouragement, which could be summed up simply as Paul saying to Timothy … don’t give up. Don’t give up in life, don’t give up in your faith, don’t give up what you feel that God is calling you to do. Keep going, Paul says, don’t give up.
Do you know someone who is struggling who need to hear this. Do you need to hear this … Don’t give up.
Let’s look at verse 6 … anything jump out for you in that verse?
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.
I did not choose the reading for that reason, that was just there. I feel that God is trying to reinforce a point. In our faith, in our church … please don’t give up using the gifts of God to service others. Don’t be ashamed to speak of God’s love and grace. As verse 7 says the help that God gives us through the Spirit does not make us timid, but gives us power, and focus and love. Don’t give up. Keep going. As verse 9, focus on the grace and calling given to us through Jesus. Keep going. Don’t give up.
While I have only looked at 10 verses from 2 Timothy, both letters from Paul to Timothy are like this … there are six chapters in 1 Timothy and another 4 chapters in 2 Timothy, full of encouragement, affirmation of the specialness of the relationship and reminders to look to Jesus and to keep going.
Right near the end of the 2nd Letter there is an interesting play of words in the Greek that adds an interesting perspective.
Towards the end of 2 Timothy chapter 3, Paul is wrapping up his encouraging words – and in verse 14 Paul writes,
“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” Now you would assume that Paul is referring to Timothy. As for you Timothy, continue in what you have learnt because you know me and trust me from whom you have learnt it. Makes sense, doesn’t it.
And yet, the Greek Paul chooses to use in this sentence can be read much more inclusively. Not just “As you for Timothy” but “as for all of you”. It is almost like Paul was hinting that this letter, these encouraging words, were for Timothy but not just for Timothy. Likewise, this challenge from Paul is not just Timothy’s challenge but ours too.
So hear the challenge… Continue in what you have learnt and have become convinced of. Keep going! Don’t give up.
I am going to and the end of the service put these encouragement challenges into practice – but I also wish for you to see whether you can take on these challenges as well. With those people who thought of earlier – people who have been a Paul to you or who are a Timothy that you are encouraging – are you willing to this week to give God thanks for them, to pray for them, to find some time to connect with them, to encourage them to keep going in their life or faith.
Are you up for the challenge? Lets support, pray for and …what the word … encourage each other as we continue to journey though life with Jesus. Amen.